Author: Christopher Brookmyre
28 May 2014 Leave a comment
Occasionally I would like to take the time to talk about and highlight a particular book, author, character, quotes, chapter, book cover, book-to-film adaptation or whatever the hell else has taken my fancy. (This is actually the first of what I hope to be many.)
Christopher Brookmyre is one of my favourite authors. He writes the kind of books I wish I could erase from my memory so I could read them for the first time all over again. His books are, in no particular order: funny, memorable, easy to read, highly entertaining and unputdownable. Although I had come across Brookmyre’s books, it took a while before I bothered picking one up. I’m more than glad I did, eventually.
My first encounters with his books were when their covers would catch my eye in bookshops. I’d pull them off the shelf and admire their vibrant and interesting design. I think I even read the back of a couple of them, but for whatever reason, I never actually bought or read one.
Years after these few random run ins, my partner began reading Brookmyre. He had read one book, Boiling A Frog, years previously, and something had caused him to pick it up and read it again. This lead to him buying a second Brookmyre book, then a third, then… he ended up with them all. He couldn’t get enough of them. He would read late into the night, while I was trying to sleep beside him. He would read me the odd line or paragraph or explain an amusing plot point. He would all but beg me to read one of these books. For my part, I listened to him but didn’t take much of it in. He was happy; I was happy he was happy—that didn’t mean I had to read these books, too.
Eventually, though, I did. I caved in. I said fine. I agreed that I would give one of Brookmyre’s books a go. As is my wont, I started chronologically. So, Quiet Ugly One Morning it was. I think I finished it in two sittings. I remember a whole afternoon flitting away as I sat on the sofa, unable to stop reading. If you can pick up that book and not be hooked from the very first chapter, then I despair of you. I hadn’t even finished the book before I was apologising to my partner for ever having moaned at him for staying up late reading Brookmyre and for only humouring him when he wanted to discuss the books with me—I understood, now.
With 13 more Brookmyre books to catch up on I decided to pace myself, knowing I could devour them in a couple of months if I wasn’t careful. I wanted to savour them. I “paced myself” by reading one non-Brookmyre book between each Brookmyre book. In this way I managed to make them last six months, instead.
You can find Brookmyre shelved in varying sections at your local bookshop. Predominantly he is categorised as crime fiction, which while not incorrect, seems to leave so much out; it’s crime fiction, but it’s so much more than that. Putting him in general fiction leaves the possibilities open enough to cover all his work is, but doesn’t actually tell you enough. The bulk of his work (his first 13 novels) are almost a genre of their own, to me. Satirical crime humour, is the best I can come up with. His next three novels, the Jasmine Sharp series, are more typical of crime fiction. They lack the satire and the humour, though present, is more refined. The newest direction Brookmyre has turned in is science fiction and gaming, however I haven’t yet read Bedlam myself (I’m getting better at this pacing thing), so I can’t throw in my opinion of how accurately this categorisation is.
The first (and most obvious) thing to note about Brookmyre’s books can be summed up in one work: Scottish. Nearly all of his books are set in Scotland, and all feature at least one Scottish character. Scottish words and phrases abound. So much so in A Tale Etched In Blood and Hard Black Pencil that the book features a glossary. Being Scottish himself, this seems only natural. Somehow the abundance of Scottish settings, characters and vocabulary seems to add to the gritty realism and the incredible humour, both, for me. I get so immersed in it I can also catch myself thinking in a Scottish accent for days after finishing a Brookmyre book.
What I find wonderful is the overlap between books. Characters and events crossover, with nothing so important that you would need to have read an earlier book to understand, but that just adds detail and fun and places otherwise unrelated books into the same fictional universe.
It’s hard to describe the love for the entirety of one author’s work to anyone who hasn’t read that author at all, or even heard of them. I’m also wary of spoiling the magic for anyone who may yet pick up a Brookmyre book (which I am very much urging all of you to do). What I most love (and envy) Brookmyre for are his characters. Characters are such an important part of reading for me, and I somehow manage to love all of Brookmyre’s, even the bad guys (I’m looking at you, Simon Darcourt). This isn’t necessarily because they are all likeable, but because they are all well-rounded. The ‘good’ and ‘evil’ isn’t clear cut (a lot of the time). We get to know the characters’ motivations and influences, we get to sympathise, even if we don’t agree with them.
Combine the wonderful characters with fantastically entertaining scenarios, stomach-pain-inducing humour and an all-consuming need to know what happens and who did it, and basically you have a recipe for books I will forever enjoy and encourage others to read.
Having said above that I was hooked by the time I’d read the first chapter of Brokmyre’s first book, I issue a plea. A demand. A challenge. The opening two chapters of Quite Ugly One Morning are freely available on Brookmyre’s official website. Please. I’m telling you. I dare you. Read them. Fair warning, the first chapter is unabashedly graphic in its description of bodily fluids (but I promise, it’s hilarious). If you laugh, if you enjoy it, if you want to read the rest of the book: you’re welcome. If you don’t like it, I despair of you.
A post about Christopher Broookmyre’s books was one thing I had wanted to do when I first started this blog over a year ago. The fact that I hadn’t yet was the reason I hadn’t read the latest Jasmine Sharpe book, Flesh Wounds; I didn’t want to review that until I had waxed lyrical about ALL the books. That said, I am currently over halfway through Flesh Wounds, so expect that review soon!